Foreign intelligence has improved Finland’s ability to collect information

The mission of Supo is to acquire information on threats to Finland. Such information is nowadays also acquired from beyond the borders of Finland.

A grey steel cable.

Supo has been authorised to acquire information from abroad for nearly five years, and it has exercised this right actively and successfully. Despite the very long-term nature of this development work, we may already observe that access to foreign intelligence has significantly enhanced the conditions and ability of Supo to provide intelligence to top-level government in Finland.

Supo is engaged in acquiring information of importance to Finland’s national security, irrespective of whether that information is in Finland or abroad. The ability to collect information abroad is essential for national security, as all of the details relevant to the most serious threats affecting Finland are not usually otherwise available.

Foreign intelligence is demanding by nature, and it is accordingly used for the most critical issues on which corresponding information cannot be otherwise obtained. The targets of foreign intelligence must remain secret to protect operations.
Foreign intelligence is an essential and crucial element in the work of all intelligence services, as it is often practically the only way to acquire necessary details that the target of information gathering actively seeks to protect.

Supo always complies with Finnish law

Supo has been building its foreign intelligence capacity ever since new intelligence legislation took effect in 2019. Capacity building is a long-term process that calls for continuous learning and refining of operations.

A wide selection of tools may be applied in foreign intelligence, as Supo has practically the same range of lawful instruments available for use abroad as it has in Finland. Information may be gathered from abroad either openly, or using covert means. The decision on the method applied always depends on the most appropriate and effective means of obtaining information.

Foreign intelligence work is guided by the same principles as other Supo operations. Supo engages in foreign intelligence to protect Finland’s national security. On the other hand, such aims as promoting the economic or commercial interests of Finland are not a basis for acquiring intelligence information. The intelligence operations and interests of a small country clearly differ from those of superpowers.

Supo always complies with Finnish law when conducting foreign intelligence operations. All of its operations are carefully regulated and monitored – including foreign intelligence. The Intelligence Ombudsman may access all Supo information, including information related to foreign intelligence. Decisions on foreign intelligence are always made by the Director of Supo.

Foreign intelligence must be protected

Foreign intelligence is ineffective without a high degree of protection and confidentiality. Supo may accordingly disclose very little about its operations and information gathering abroad. Foreign intelligence functions cannot be carried out successfully and efficiently unless operations can be protected or conducted covertly.

All details of Supo foreign intelligence work are of interest to potential targets of information gathering, and to those who would seek to disrupt or prevent successful information gathering by Supo.

Supo must conceal its successes in order to enjoy continued success.